In many disputes the expert evidence is central to determining the dispute. If there are issues of a non-legal technical nature the judge will need the guidance of an expert witness.
However, the use of expert witnesses in the small claims court is unsual.
If you wish to use expert evidence, you will need the permission of the court. This is no different from the other court tracks. Although, it is likely to be more difficult to convince the court that expert evidence should be allowed because of the cost of expert evidence and because small claims are not considered complex. If expert evidence is required then this could be an indication that the matter is too complex for the small claims track and the case is allocated to one of the other tracks.
You should also be aware that you can only recover a maximum of £750 for expert’s fees from your opponent if you win your case. See Practice Direction 27 Paragraph 7.3(2).
When you are completing the Directions Questionnaire, you need to give careful consideration as to whether you should ask for permission to adduce expert evidence. It could result in your claim being allocated outside the small claims court (which brings with it the risk of paying your opponent’s costs if you lose – see Allocation outside the small claims court and the consequences) and you incurring irrecoverable costs i.e. if the expert’s fees are going to be more than £750.
You should also consider whether a single joint expert could be appointed by the parties. If so you should approach your opponent to see whether they will agree to such an appointment. This would involve the sharing of the expert’s fee and is more likley to result in the court giving permission as generally the court prefers the evidence of a single joint expert.
So you need to consider before you need to complete and file the Directions Questionnaire:
- Is expert evidence really necessary to prove my case?;
- If so, what type of expert do I need?;
- Will it be possible to deal with expert evidence with a single joint expert?;
- Make enquiries for recommeded experts and her/his likely fee;
- You can then put all these points into the directions questionnaire to put your case to the court for permission to adduce expert evidence.
If you are I any doubt as to whether you need expert evidence please see the Civil Procedure Rules guidance (Practice Direction 27 Appendix A) of the evidence expected in different types of small claims or seek legal advice (provide some details in the ‘Get Started’ page and we can help find you some legal advice).